Aireon, Saudi ATC Provider to Analyze Space-Based ADS-B

 - July 17, 2017, 4:00 PM
SpaceX launched a second batch of 10 Iridium Next satellites with ADS-B payloads into space on June 25. (Image: Iridium)

Space-based surveillance provider Aireon signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Air Navigation Services (SANS) to analyze Aireon’s automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) system. That system, consisting of ADS-B transponders mounted on Iridium Next satellites, is gradually taking shape as new satellites are launched into orbit.

Assisted by Aireon operations and engineering personnel, SANS, the air navigation service provider (Ansp) of Saudi Arabia, will begin a cost/benefits analysis of space-based ADS-B surveillance of aircraft within its airspace in the coming months, Aireon said on July 14.

“Deploying space-based ADS-B is an opportunity to optimize air traffic flow, while reducing the current separation minimums and providing significant airline benefits,” stated Abdullah Alsuweilmy, SANS chairman. “Space-based ADS-B will also help us increase safety for all aviation stakeholders and the flying public.”

With the Saudi agreement and an upcoming announcement, Aireon has now signed 17 such agreements, including with two European functional airspace blocks, or groupings of countries. Ten customers for the surveillance service are under contract, the company said.

Aireon, based in McLean, Virginia, is a joint venture of Iridium Communications, Nav Canada and the Ansps of Ireland, Italy and Denmark. Plans call for Nav Canada to acquire a 51 percent controlling interest in Aireon later this year.

On June 25, launch provider SpaceX launched a second batch of 10 Iridium Next satellites into low-Earth orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. This followed a SpaceX launch in January that deployed the first 10 of 66 active satellites (plus spares) planned for the new-generation Iridium mobile communications constellation.

The second launch increased the total number of Aireon’s hosted ADS-B payloads in orbit to 20; another 55 will be deployed over a series of six launches in the next year, the company said.